Pandora’s Box: Shame

Shame. It’s such a small word but carries such weight and power. In 2015 I realised how much shame was controlling me; how it held me captive and distorted my identity. I reached a point where the burden of shame was just too heavy to carry, it had my heart feeling sick. One dark, cold Dunedin night I broke. I spilled my ugliness and exposed my heart’s wounds to Mima and my sister who received me with open hearts and open arms. After that night and a few difficult phone calls to my parents I realised that the power of guilt and shame lay in silence. Your sin and screw ups can only haunt you if you keep quiet about them. The more open I was about my mistakes, the less shame I felt; it opened the door for support, love and accountability. I realised that I am not a sum of my mistakes; my identity lies as a daughter of the King, bought at the highest price. That did not make me perfect, the scars of my mistakes I will carry with me forever, but it did open up the door for grace and forgiveness.

As has been the theme with a lot of my posts and rants the last year or so, this new series was born out of the realisation that the more we stay silent the more life will get the better of us. The more I talked to people about the true state of my life, the more I realised that I am not alone. I am not alone in my loneliness, in my struggles, in my shame, in my doubt, in my stupidity, in my sadness. I was talking to Mima one night about how angry I was that I had lived under the burden of shame for so long for no reason and that especially in the church we feel the need to sugar coat our lives to glorify our sanctification. But in doing so we are taking away the power of grace. Grace can only be powerful when we are humble enough to admit that we are not perfect. And so the idea of Pandora’s Box was born. We are aiming to cover all things taboo; all the things that we all know but are too afraid to talk about. In doing so we hope to start conversation here and wherever you are. We hope to empower you to uncover your wounds to let them heal.

When I called my Dad to tell him of the shame that I had been carrying around I remembering crying my heart out. I said to him, “Daddy, I have something I need to tell you but I’m so scarred. I feel so awful and I don’t want you to be angry or disappointed.” In broken sentences and a flood of tears I told Dad everything, I opened my wounds hoping at the most that he would not scratch them open and cast me out. Dad paused for a while and then choking back tears of his own he said to me, “I have never loved you more than I love you right now. Thank you for loving me enough to share this with me. You are not alone in this.” I realised in that phone call that if my earthly Dad could respond like that to the biggest stuff ups of my entire life, how much more love my heavenly Father would extend to me. I realised that Jesus died so that we could curl up on Abba’s chest and ugly cry while we told Him what we’ve done. Jesus died so that Abba could hold us and heal our wounds instead of casting us aside. I found so much comfort in realising that I did not need to hide from God when I did the wrong thing, but that I could run to him with arms wide open and collapse into His arms.

When I sat on Abba’s knee and told Him about my shame, insecurity and hypocrisy I found my identity in His love and grace. I realised that I am forgiven and am not defined by what I did. It has taken me many months to be comfortable enough to start this series, to realise that it exposes me to mass-judgement and risks my reputation and many friendships. But I am ready, ready to write out of a place of being scarred, not carrying around festering wounds. All it took for me to find peace, restoration and freedom was to hear a resounding “me too” from loved ones, from role models and from Jesus. To realise that I am not alone.

My hope and prayer for you reading this is that as we take this journey of opening Pandora’s Box that you will find that too. That you will hear a “friend, me too” in every word that we say or write. That you will feel the love that we are extending to you and that you too will be able to sit on Abba’s knee and empty your heart; to exchange your wounds for freedom. That you will look at the scars on Jesus’ hands and realise that they are there so that you can be free of shame, because you are not alone in your pain. The video above is a spoken word piece that Mima and I wrote together and really summarises our hope for this series that we are tackling together; that you will find freedom from your shame when you embrace vulnerability. So friend, I ask that you open your heart for the next few weeks as we get our hands dirty. Please read what we have to say with eyes of grace and love, and realise that we are not doing this to point fingers or condemn anyone. Please also have patience with us as we explore making videos – we are doing it so that you can hear our hearts behind our words, that they will be more than words on a screen. Please hold our hearts as we share them very vulnerably with you.

Buckle up loves, we are in for a bumpy ride but the reward waiting on the other side is so worth it! As always, drop us a comment and let’s start this conversation!


Note: The music in the video is not ours, it was done by Kai Engel

Sweet as

Days abroad: 110

I have neglected this poor blog for two months! My bad…

At this stage it feels weird writing this as a travel blog, because I do not feel like a traveler anymore. As I said in my last post, Austin has become home for me. I tackled my exchange with the aim of feeling as though I live here, rather than feeling like a foreign exchange student. I wanted to be friends with Americans, do everything possible that local students do, and say “yes” to every opportunity that comes my way. This approach does sometimes put me in situations where I feel very out of place, but I would not have it any other way. My aim is to seem as local as possible until I open my mouth.

I have never really considered myself a Kiwi, because I am such an odd mix of my two cultures. Now I am very quick to say I’m from New Zealand before someone mistakes me for an Aussie. The ol’ accent has tripped me up a few times; I’m still learning to properly speak American English. Here’s what I’ve learnt so far:

  • When saying “netball” apparently it sounds like “nipple” which has lead to a few awkward situations of people being really confused as to what I do…
  • A Kiwi here is strictly a fruit, so I have to explain the flightless bird that you never see so aren’t really sure if it exists. We are birds, not fruit. (Side note: they call manderines Cuties or Halos and it drives me insane).
  • I have the hardest time trying to tell people what my name is, so I generally rely on having an American friend introduce me – just so that I end up being called something remotely close to my name.
  • My Kiwisms trip people up often but they’re too polite to ask me what I mean, example: “everything turned to custard” I’ve had to stop saying because it confused too many people
  • And the crowning glory, something I didn’t realise how often I used it until this year: “sweet as”. Again, people were too polite to ask but I eventually find out that it really confuses people. A few friends have now started to heckle me, asking “Sweet as what?!” every time I say it. No replacement saying has been found yet.
  • Best reaction to the Kiwi accent so far came after I apologised for sounding Australian: “Nah, I could die in a bathtub of your accent.”

As far as what I have been doing the last month aside from hectically trying to finish assignments and stay on track with readings; I travelled for Spring Break and went “home” for Easter. I spent Spring Break with a friend of mine who came to Otago for exchange last year first semester, who goes to school in Alabama. We hit up Atlanta, Savannah, Charleston, Birmingham and Tuscaloosa before I finished the week off with a day of netball in Houston. There was a freak winter storm over the country that week so I did not get the classic Spring Break experience; instead we were all layered up and briskly walking between warm buildings. Reminded us of our shared semester in Otago, which at that stage was not a very welcome throwback. I could go on forever about how amazing this roadtrip was, but as with any roadtrip you needed to have been there in order to understand how dear to my heart it was.

Easter weekend was amazing! My beautiful family let me have the best of both worlds by sending me plenty of photos and videos so that I did not feel like I was missing out. A friend of mine took me home to her place for the weekend, where we pretty much watched movies for the entire weekend before church and a big extended family lunch on Sunday. Pro tip for anyone living overseas alone: find a family home. It honestly makes a world of difference to get a hug and a “welcome home” from a Dad, help Momma carry in the groceries and be surrounded by sibling banter for a few days. And sometimes all you need is a hug from Gran to make everything in the world seem okay again.

I also ran a 10k the other weekend. That was something that I learnt from my friend from Alabama – have something to work towards and a physical goal that you want to achieve during your semester abroad. It keeps you going to the gym, and on the off days allows you to feel accomplished and in control of something. I also found a few friends at the race, which was one of those “Wow, I really have found my new home” moments. When you start recognising faces in a crowd and find friends wherever you go, you know you’ve made yourself at home in a city.

Oh, I also celebrated my 20th birthday the other day! The timezone meant that I had a solid two day birthday celebrating my Kiwi, African and American birthdays. It was one of the best birthdays yet, I felt so loved and cherished throughout the whole day. It taught me not to expect people to meet your needs, but to constantly reach out until someone meets you where you’re at. Tell people that your birthday is coming up and that you want to do something fun. If something is important to you, make it happen! We also went two-stepping again which was a tonne of fun!

I miss all my people back home; my family, my friends, my puppy. I miss knowing all the best coffee shops to visit and not having to use Google Maps every day. I miss knowing all the people in my classes and saying hello to someone every time I’m on campus. I miss my church family. I cannot wait to see the green and the mountains, be by the sea and spend hours exploring the streets knowing that I am completely safe. I miss Whitakers chocolate and small portions. I miss netball and watching the rugby. I miss running till my lungs burnt because the air was so cold. I miss not having to tell people about myself because they already know me. But I have never been one to stay in a place of comfort for too long. At the end of the day I am an immigrant child and have never lived in the same suburb for more than 5 years. I love my island home and the slower pace of life, but the longer I am out here the more I realise that New Zealand will not be home forever. Even if it just for a season, I know I have another home waiting for me on this planet. If it’s in Texas I will not complain – they just need to give me a way to still stick on my “C” bib.

So how is life on exchange? It is sweet as. Sweet as what? Sweet as Southern sweet tea and welcome home smiles.